To Santa or Not to Santa?

Do Santa Sessions fit with your brand?

Sal is not a big fan of Santa. He thinks if you’re trying to build a high-end brand, Santa does not fit into that. He thinks if you’re doing more volume, Santa absolutely can work. Money-wise, it’s there for Santa, but you have to start planning now. The best thing to do is to clear your calendar and do this in a one to two-week window and go full tilt at it.

Once you get into December, you’re going to have a really hard time turning product quick enough. You might be able to pull off that first week of December, but after the second week of December, you might be able to do it, but you just have to mentally understand how much work it is going to be ahead of time or your clients are going to be pissed off. Basically, the way this is going to work is you’re going to do 15-minute mini sessions. You’re going to use direct mail, Facebook, etc. Contact all of your clients, no matter who they are. If they’ve got kids, they’re perfect for Santa.


Something Sal sees missing with almost everybody he works with on this is the concept of “refer a friend.” Think about this for a second. Moms talk for sure, and so you should be using that to your advantage. Meaning refer a friend. If it’s a dad…misery loves company, right? Dads don’t want to be sitting there for Santa pictures for an hour. That’s not what they hope to do on their Saturday. He’s looking to bring their friends so that it becomes an event and two or three families that hang out together all come to do this. Right? Use your refer a friend. Refer a friend and get a free 5×7 print. Refer a friend and get a free, whatever you want to give to them, but use that and that’ll help fill your calendar with Santa sessions.

Low session fee, high volume

The key here is understanding that you’re going to have a low session fee, low sales average. This is built on volume, so you’re not going to run a $2,000 sales average on this. It’s just highly unlikely unless you are in a completely different market in the country and you’re doing something that’s completely different than what everybody else is doing. It’s just hard to run a $2,000 sales average on a low session fee.

What it takes to be successful

Now, what work is involved to succeed? First of all, it comes down to Santa. You got to have a killer Santa, right? Don’t go cheap on your Santa. People we work with spend thousands on a good Santa to lock him up and have him there, committed to being at your event. Another thing is a killer set. Again, don’t go cheap. Don’t buy some cheap-ass fake looking background with some lame-ass tree you picked up right from last year’s Target end of Christmas sale that’s missing 10 branches. You have to make this look right if you want people to spend money.

If you’re just getting started, this is not what Sal would be recommending, but long-term, if this is something you see in a high volume model for yourself, it will work. The first year is going to be the most painful, but it is a completely different workflow here. You have to shoot and preview almost immediately because there’s no time to turn these pictures, to edit them, to get them in for an IPS. It’s not going to happen. This is a completely different model. You’re shooting and shuffling memory cards off to another room where somebody else has to be doing IPS, so there’s a lot more hands involved to get this to work.

Selling products

Product choices have to be from simple cards and small prints to over the top, large canvas. Sal has seen it work. Sal has seen people do it, but it’s not going to be your 80%. It’s only going to be your 10% of people who are going to do this. If you shoot and light for fine art, you will have those people who will buy 20×30 and 16×24 canvases, large prints, and installations because it looks painterly. It looks fine art, and you can do that. If you’re good at editing this style, do it. Or, you can outsource it. You can have this portrait, have a painterly look, and that might be something you’re selling as fine art for your clients. Have that sample in there so that they can see it and understand what you’re giving them.

This model is built on high volume, so don’t forget that.

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